Campbell’s top finance official met with key U.K. private hospital corporations — FOI

News release

A top official in the Campbell Liberal government met representatives of British corporations linked to high profile hospital privatization fiascos in the United Kingdom, according to documents obtained by the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) through a freedom of information request.

Over the last year, deputy finance minister Paul Taylor met separately with representatives of U.K.-based Amec Plc and Serco Group Plc — two corporations heavily involved in privately financed and operated hospitals in that country.

With cabinet expected to decide on whether to proceed with a privatized model for a new hospital in Abbotsford in the next few weeks, HEU’s secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the Campbell government is only looking at one side of the issue.

“Gordon Campbell rebuffed our offer of a briefing on the Abbotsford private hospital proposal with forensic auditor Ron Parks, “ says Allnutt. “But his key finance official is getting the goods from corporations that have cashed in on health care privatization.

“Victoria should be consulting with patients, the public and with front-line health care workers on critical matters such as private hospitals,” adds Allnutt. “But it appears that it’s private health corporations that have the Premier’s ear.”

Amec Plc led a consortium that designed and built the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle which opened in June, 2000. Amec also has a contract to provide non-clinical services for the next 30 years at the hospital.

A year later, the health editor for the respected British daily, The Observer, documented a range of problems at the “filthy, gloomy and chaotic” hospital including one incident where raw sewage spilled into an operating theatre and another where a breakdown of emergency power systems resulted in darkened operating rooms. Cost cutting measures resulted in dirty wards, lack of maintenance and longer waiting lists for medical procedures.

Serco Group Plc is involved in a number of privatized U.K. hospitals as an investor and as a provider of contracted out non-clinical services. Serco is a member of the investing consortium at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital which came under fire in the British press for pocketing a $160 million windfall from renegotiating the financing on its long-term interest in the project.

Taylor’s meeting with Amec took place just days before Premier Campbell met with the former head of the largest private hospital corporation in the U.S. that’s currently at the centre of a sweeping fraud investigation.

HEU obtained the documents last week in response to a request made to the finance ministry in January for records of meetings and correspondence with “private health corporations that could be involved in the provision of hospital services anywhere in B.C.”

A similar request to the health services ministry turned up no such records.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-456-7039 (direct) or 604-828-6771 (cell)

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